THE Republic of Ireland Under-17s will play the first phase of their UEFA Under-17 European Championship qualifiers in Cork.
U17 Head Coach Colin O’Brien will return to his native Cork for games against Poland, North Macedonia and Andorra in their Group 5 qualification group in October.
O’Brien, who enjoyed a successful League of Ireland career with Cork City, saw his side qualify from the Elite Phase the last time they played in the Rebel County with wins over Andorra, Montenegro and Israel in November 2019.
Turner’s Cross and the Mardyke Arena UCC will host qualification matches for the four Group 5 teams between October 7-13 with match details to be announced in due course.
O’Brien and his backroom staff were back on the grass hosting a home-based assessment day at the AUL Complex last week as he monitored a group of 40 players available for selection for the first phase of qualifications in Autumn.
Speaking about returning to Cork, he said: “We’ve used Cork as a base for us in the past and we’ve super facilities there and now is the aim for us to prepare as best we can for games against Andorra, North Macedonia and Poland.
“It’s great to be back. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen players back playing the EA SPORTS National Leagues, whether that’s pre-season games or certain clubs training and last weekend we had the League kick-off and that’s been brilliant.
“We’ve been preparing for the home-based assessment this week and next and we have 40 players coming in at Under-17 level and we’re hoping to find some players to go and play for Ireland at the Under-17 Championship qualifiers later this year.
“We go into a camp at the end of July and we have a friendly double-header at the end of August, start of September and the whole preparation is to aimed at having a squad of 20 players ready to represent Ireland in the first phase of qualifiers in Cork.”
Last month O’Brien was appointed as Ireland Under-18 Head Coach, a role he will undertake whilst overseeing the U17s this campaign.
From next year, the U18s will be a competitive level, joining U17s, U19s and U21s in competitive action. O’Brien added: “They’re going to be in European competition in a UEFA Nations League format.
“They’ll play competitive games which is important as some players do step-up and play U19s but some don’t. It’s still a stepping stone, whether it’s competitive or not, but that’s going to be a new change for them.
"This time next year we’ll preparing for those games and hopefully that will be good for the players development.”